WASHINGTON — Mary Dempsey, sister of Maine native and nationally renowned actor Patrick Dempsey, said Wednesday at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on cancer research that it’s important to treat the entire person, not just the disease.
Dempsey said she often refers to the “head-to-toe” approach, which is a holistic way of looking at a cancer patient. “Taking care of the whole person, the whole mind and body is very, very important.”
Moreover, the family of the cancer patient also needs support services, she said.
Those services are offered at The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing in Lewiston, where Dempsey serves as assistant director and co-founder.
The siblings launched the center after their mother, Amanda, was diagnosed in 1997 with ovarian cancer. She died in March.
Dempsey was invited to speak before the Senate Aging Committee by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is the ranking Republican on the committee. She delivered prepared remarks before answering questions as part of a panel that consisted, in part, of cancer survivors and doctors.
Collins had asked Dempsey on Wednesday to talk about nonmedical treatments provided at the center that are important to patients, their families and primary caregivers.
Responding to a question from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., committee chairman, Dempsey said she recalled hearing about clinical trials taking place during her mother’s 17-year battle with cancer that included a dozen recurrences.
“It was very frustrating because mom would have accepted the clinical trials regardless of them being [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]-approved,” Dempsey said. “I’m hearing a lot of the same difficulties. It’s very enlightening. I think we just need to keep moving forward and do it together.”